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How to Make Motorcycle Routes in Garmin Basecamp on a Mac [Tutorial]

I love Google Maps. It’s user-friendly and it looks good. But it has its limitations. When I’m working on a particularly long or complicated route, Garmin Basecamp gives me much more control over my route than good ole Google. And, I can import my route directly into a GPS unit if I need to or save my files as gpx files.


But, as Uncle Ben told Peter Parker—with great power comes great responsibility. Sigh. While Basecamp offers users more power, it also comes with a more complicated routing process. 


In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to make your motorcycle touring routes in Garmin Basecamp. You’ll be a pro in no time.


Setting Up Your Workspace


Before you do anything, make sure Activity is set to Motorcycling.


Next, start a new list (File > New List)


Rename the list so you’ll easily be able to find your route later. 

To rename, either type it in right away or right-click and select rename.



Starting from a Destination


In the search bar in Basecamp, type in your starting point location. In this example, I’m going to use Starbucks in Clemmons, NC.


In the pane to the right, a sidebar will pop up with “Top Results.” Double click on the option that you wish to start with.


This will zoom in to the option you chose.


Click on the balloon and you’ll see a pop-up that shows the name and address. If this is the right option, click the x to remove the pop-up. 




Creating Your Motorcycle Route


Next, select the routing tool. Just x out of the box that pops up saying “Drag start point here” as we won’t be using it for this exercise.


With the routing tool selected, click on the food icon for Starbucks (not the balloon). This may require you to zoom in closer. If so, just scroll up on your mouse to zoom in. 


You should now have a starting via point and if you move your cursor around, you should see a green routing icon with a line that moves with your cursor.




Zoom out a little (scroll down with your mouse) and choose the next place to insert a via point.


If you need to, select the hand icon to move the map around. 


While zooming in and out or moving the map with the hand tool, your routing tool will ‘disconnect’ from the route.


This is super annoying, but don’t panic. To continue the route, just hold ALT and click on the last via point. Make sure that there is still only one route on your list. If it shows two, it began a new route instead of continuing from your last point. Just delete the second route and try again.




TIP: In Basecamp, it’s much easier to zoom way out and place via points in the general area you want your route to be, and then come back to fine-tune the route later.


Continue placing via points until you’ve constructed a rough version of your tour.


Once you’ve placed your last via point, right-click anywhere on the map (away from your route) to disconnect the routing tool.


TIP: Avoid using the exact same point as your start/endpoints. Instead, place your last via point a little bit away from the starting point. This helps prevent some GPS units from getting confused and trying to send you in a perpetual loop to your start point when you begin your motorcycle tour.


Refining Your Route


Now that you’ve got your basic route made, it’s time to perfect it. Routing software tends to put you on the fastest or most direct route (depending on your settings), so you’re most likely on a lot of interstates and roads you want to avoid.


TIP: You can customize your routing tool. Just go to Preferences and select Routing. Here, you can choose the software to automatically look for the fastest, curviest, or shortest distance. 


To switch roads, click the selection tool (arrow icon), and just click the part of the route you want to switch and move it to the road you want. The route should snap to new road.




It can take several via points to get your route to stay on a specific road. Occasionally, routing software decides it knows best and tries to steer you onto another road after a few miles or so. Google does this too. I call this human versus software fight club! Luckily, I usually win and don’t leave the office with any black eyes! 


TIP: Try to position via points right before and/or after turns. This will help prevent your GPS device from getting a wild hair and redirecting you onto a random road or someone’s driveway.


Saving and Exporting Your Motorcycle Route


After you have the via points positioned and the route is on the roads you want, it’s time to save and export your route.


The nice thing about Basecamp is that once you create a list, the program saves your route automatically. That’s why it’s important to name your lists, otherwise, you’ll have a long list of “New List 9” and “New List 10,” and so on.


Exporting Your Route


When exporting your route, you have several options. You can either choose to export the list or export selected data. If you added Waypoints into your list, you’ll want to choose File>Export [list name]. If you only want to export the route, choose File>Export Selected User Data.


For this example, I’m using Export Selected User Data. The Save dialogue box will pop. Your data will automatically be named the same as your list. Choose where you want to save your file and what format (normally GPX v1.1). This will save your route as gpx file on your computer.




Transferring Your Route to a GPS Unit


If you want to import your route directly into your GPS unit, first make sure your GPS device is plugged into your computer.


Next, click on Transfer>Send to Device [your device’s name]. This will send your route straight to your device, and now all you need to do is follow the steps on your unit to complete the import process (this varies from unit to unit).




Once you get the hang of the routing tool, creating tours in Basecamp isn’t too bad, but it does take some getting used to, especially if you are/were a Mapsource user (like me) or have been using a different routing software.


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